Birth of a descriptor

Hardcore naming geeks understand that moment of quickening, when first we discover a new generic descriptor in the wild. That happened to me tonight when I read this article about 'kitchen PCs.' As computer descriptors go, 'kitchen PC' is clear and distinctive. It's too bad the product names in the kitchen PC category fall short.

The Asus Eee Top is bizarre. Is that like "Eee, a mouse"? It's a head scratcher for sure.

The Dell Studio One name is flat though inoffensive. No one would get fired for choosing such a safe name. Not sure anyone would clamor to buy one either, at least not based on the name.

The MSI Wind Top (the company name seems to be MSI Wind) is also bizarre, though mainly because of the word Wind in the company name; it just sort of comes from left field. Perhaps two companies MSI and Wind merged and this is the Frankenstein result. One interesting quality of the name is that in isolation, I was inclined to read the "wind" of MSI Wind as a breeze. But when the word "wind" is followed by the word "top" I'm suddenly unsure if it should be wind with a long "i" as in "wind a top." The context actually makes pronunciation of the name more ambiguous.

Although the Wired article suggests the kitchen PC category is new, I remember the ahead-of-its-time 3Com Audrey from the turn of the century. Today's kitchen PC marketers would be well served to find product names a little more like Audrey and a lot less like Eee Top.

The pun is mightier

NYT article about the much-reviled pun. Why does everyone pick on puns? Puns need love, too.

It's OK, but it's no "Reusing Old Graves"

Curious article about the Oddest Book Title of the Year Award.

Words have work to do

It's my job to come up with the most productive ones.

At Operative Words, I put words to work as brand names, taglines, and product descriptors.

I coordinate teams of words for nomenclature systems that organize products and lines of business.

I recruit just one or two words -- the right words -- to do the heavy, heady work of expressing a brand's essence and positioning.

For twenty years, words have been my labor of love.

Before starting Operative Words, I was Global Director of Naming and Writing at Landor Associates; worked there for 13 years.

At Lexicon Branding, I named consumer products, pharmaceuticals, companies and technologies.

I've been a typesetter, copywriter, software marketer and product manager. And for a few years, I did nothing but design wine lists. That was fun.

I have an honors degree in Linguistics from UC Santa Cruz and, on occasion, lecture there and at Haas Business School.

Over the course of my verbal branding career, I've worked for over 230 companies and brought more than 160 new brand names to market.

To learn more, please read my profile on LinkedIn.

Join me. Let's put words to work.

Why I do what I do

I name things.

I've given names to phones, consulting companies, meat, software, semiconductor makers, wireless services, hearing aids, soy bars, Indian hotels, healthcare companies, pens, wines, Korean gasoline, security technology, ice cream, restaurants, next-gen energy companies, magazines, urban scavenger hunts, chipsets, bands, biotech companies, and on and on. In my 20 year career working independently and at agencies like Landor and Lexicon, I've brought over 100 new brand names into the world.

But why?

It's because our world is overrun by brands. There is almost no place to go that is entirely brand-free.

As I see it, if we're going to have brand names foisted on us everywhere we turn, shouldn't they at least be brand names that we don't mind having around?

That's what motivates and inspires me: The opportunity to change our surroundings in a small but positive way by giving things names that people like.